Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Enemy of Freedom

The Enemy of Freedom

With all of the hoopla surrounding Arizona's new anti-immigration law one would think that the American people would have already realized that their constitutional rights, found especially in the Bill of Rights, had been eviscerated long ago.

Because of Arizona's new law, many people are now concerned that their Fourth Amendment right "to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures" is now—suddenly—being put in jeopardy. But under the USA PATRIOT ACT, anyone suspected of terrorism can have their homes invaded, listening devises placed within their homes, their phones tapped, and their papers seized (or copied).

But the American people are okay with this, because the Feds only do this to suspected terrorists. But the truth is that the USA PATRIOT ACT simply allowed the Feds to expand their already unconstitutional intelligence gathering methods, which they had been using against suspected criminals (i.e., suspected organized crime figures) who, for many years now, have also had their homes invaded, listening devises placed within their homes, their phones tapped, and their papers seized (or copied).

And the American people were okay with this as well. Why? Because organized crime figures are criminals. The constitutional issue, however, is the oft neglected fact that these suspected criminals happen to be U. S. citizens who are thereby (supposedly) entitled to the protections that are (supposedly) provided for all citizens by the U. S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights.

But when it comes to the Feds taking away our constitutional rights, the American people have a very bad habit of saying something like: "Well, if you're not doing anything wrong, then you don't have anything to worry about."

But that's not really the point, is it?

The point of having constitutional rights is this: it is that when you are suspected of wrongdoing you have protection from the government, which is trying to find evidence against you in order to prosecute and convict you of that suspected wrongdoing.

Consider this too: the Feds (and the states) have been seizing (forfeiting) the property of suspected drug smugglers for years now; a direct violation of the protections afforded to all U. S, citizens by the Fifth Amendment, which states that no person shall be: ". . . deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation." But this is exactly what the authorities have been doing: seizing the property of suspected drug smugglers, before trial, and then using or selling that property for public use.

But this is okay with the American people, because these guys are (suspected) drug smugglers. I mean, "If you're not doing anything wrong, then you don't have anything to worry about" . . . right?

I got in trouble with the Feds about eight years ago, concerning an anti-abortion incident I was involved in, and I was surprised when the state that I was living in at the time decided to prosecute me for the same offense. I thought, "Isn't such double prosecution a violation of my Fifth Amendment right to protection from the government putting me on trial twice for the same offense?"

The Fifth Amendment says: ". . .nor shall any person be subjected for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy . . ." I could see if I had committed two, distinctly different offenses, but the prosecution, in both my federal and state trials, accused me—in court—of having done one, specific thing—the same thing. This, to me, was exactly what the Fifth Amendment was supposed to protect me from: being put on trial twice for the same offense.

Imagine my surprise when, in doing legal research for my (state) case, I came across a U. S. Supreme Court case from 1959 (Bartkus v. Illinois) in which the court had decided—before I was born—that is was okay for someone to be put on trial twice for the same offense in America . . . as long as the government used two different courts in which to do so: a federal court and a state court (a legal fiction since known as dual sovereignty).

In Bartkcus v. Illinois, Mr. Bartkus had been tried and found not guilty (i.e., acquitted) of the charge of bank robbery in U. S. federal court; he was then prosecuted by the state of Illinois in state court for the same offense (i.e., the (alleged) robbery of the same bank). Unfortunately for Mr. Bartkus, he was found guilty this time, and he was subsequently sentenced to serve twenty years in prison. He took his case to the U. S. Supreme Court and the court upheld the verdict, claiming dual sovereignty (i.e., that each sovereign (federal and state had the right to prosecute him for the same offense: bank robbery).

U. S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black dissented in the case, and he also wrote one of most scathing dissenting opinions in the history of the court, which I think you should read (by following the link above).

In Black's opinion, the court had overturned the U. S. citizen's right to be protected from double prosecution—a right that has existed throughout the legal history of western civilization since ancient times. As Justice Black put it, "The court apparently takes the position that a second trial for the same act is somehow less offensive if one of the trials is conducted by the Federal Government and the other by a State. Looked at from the standpoint of the individual who is being prosecuted, this notion is too subtle for me to grasp. If double punishment is what is feared, it hurts no less for two "Sovereigns" to inflict it than for one."

I can attest to the truth of this opinion: it was no less offensive to me. Having to prepare for two trials, and having to prepare to go to prison twice, for the same offense was certainly offensive to me.

I'm saying all of this to point up the fact that we Americans have lost, long ago, many of the constitutional rights that are supposed to guarantee us protection from our government, which most of us (somehow) still assume that we have.

We don't have them, and many of them we haven't had for a long, long time.

Is all of the hoopla surrounding the new Arizona law justified? I think that it is, because—ideally—law enforcement should not be allowed to ask people in America to "show their papers". However, considering the many rights that we have already lost, only a few of which I've enumerated above, does anyone actually believe they are still afforded the legal protections from government that we were once afforded us by the Bill of Rights, but which are now virtually null and void?

My real concern is that America needs to be restored to its ideals. The American people require the restoration of their rights and their protections from government, which were (long ago) outlined for us in the Bill of Rights.

Until we—the People—decide get off our apathy, we're all in danger; not just the Hispanics. In fact, the Hispanics are in endangered now simply because we—the People—have let this issue (and the federal government) get so out-of-hand.

The sad truth is that the U. S. federal government has now become the real enemy of our freedom, and I think it's high time the American people wake up and begin taking responsibility for their government in order to regain their rights and their protections from the government by taking the federal government back into the hands of the People.

Perhaps this Arizona controversy will help us to do just that.

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